Are copyright laws a neseccary evil?

Discussion in 'Community' started by vniow, Sep 12, 2002.

  1. vniow macrumors G4

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    #1
    I was just thinking about this when I read about that new Intel chip, among other things in recent news. I'm just wondering if they're really there for our protection or if they're just being used as a control measure?
    :confused:
     
  2. vixapphire macrumors 6502

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    #2
    The intent of the law of copyright is to reward innovation. The law of patents is similarly intentioned; in fact, copyrights and patents share the same clause of the United States constitution.

    While it may appear that many intellectual property owners act unscrupulously in "locking up" areas of innovation, the idea that copyright and patent protection are "evil" is on par with the proven failure of an idea that private property is evil (witness the booming economy of the soviet union and various despotic regimes throughout Africa and the under-developed and undeveloped world for all too many examples of what happens when people do not have private property rights).

    Moreover, owners of intellectual property, unless they are vertically integrated (and able to absorb the cost of any related inefficiencies), must rely on market mechanisms like licensing in order to exploit their property and derive value from it. In that sense, the benefits of maximizing value of any given piece of property (so that licensees as well as licensors can derive incremental value) accrue to the largest number of people - licensors, licensees and end-users alike.
     
  3. mischief macrumors 68030

    mischief

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    #3
    The problems arise contractually:

    When an artist, innovator or researcher signs away their ideas to a company....

    Artists do it to get published.

    Innovators do it by accident.

    Researchers get paid to lock up ideas.

    When a company owns the rights to intellectual property like Music and Literature things get ugly. So too with purposefully locked Patent memes..... some companies employ think tanks that are used to predict future innovations and patent them pre-emptively...... like a land-mine.:eek: :confused:
     
  4. vixapphire macrumors 6502

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    #4
    Well, artists don't have to "sign away their ideas" (actually, it's their expression of the ideas they are signing away :) ) unless they are interested in commercially exploiting them. In a market economy, they will act rationally and seek the best terms available to them.

    Likewise, innovators may do it by accident, but, again, acting rationally, they would seek maximum gain from their innovation by exposing it to the broadest market possible. If that means contracting with a company with wide reach (like Microsoft or... (gasp!) Apple), it wouldn't be wise not to, from a standpoint of individual gain as well as benefit to the public. Of course, if an innovator has a problem or considers such activity "selling his soul to satan," he can opt out and either freely distribute through word of mouth, or hide his light and keep eating Alpo!

    There's nothing wrong with contracts - only with people who either think they're too smart to need a good lawyer to negotiate one (esp. as small-fry against a goliath company) or who have the misfortune of hiring a lousy lawyer.
     
  5. Taft macrumors 65816

    Taft

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    #5
    Dude, you have to work for the record companies, right??

    While the underlying principles that you outlined are certainly true, in the current environment (especially the music industry) everything has fallen apart. Licensing has become indentured servitude, nothing short of an artist selling all recording rights and profits from them to the recording industry. Except in the extreme cases (ala Britney Spears), artists rarely see a reasonable percentage of record sales. The vast majority of artists out there make their living by touring.

    Then there is the ridiculous policies like when a record company stops publishing an artists music, that artist is generally prevented from taking their work to another company and having it published. Therefor, a record company has the ability to effectively silence a musicians music by refusing to publish it.

    I understand that the record companies take on many risks by signing artists, but the system has been corrupted and it no longer does justice to the talent that provides the record companies a product to sell.

    I personally look forward to more convenient distribution systems such as the internet, as they will futher and further push record companies, their draconian policies and their inefficient and outdated distribution systems out of the picture.

    Blah.

    Taft
     
  6. uhlawboi80 macrumors 6502

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    #6
    exactly what is Intel copyrighting? software for controlling the chips? The chips themselves dont create copyright...and by the way, copyright arises by the act of creation. You cant "copyright" something (though you can register the copyright).

    as for patents, they really do serve a purpose. They allow the inventor who may have put alot of time and resources into the invention to solely collect the benefits. Is it fair to let someone else just walk in having put out nothing, make a copy, and undercut the inventor? Besides, with the patent requirements of novelty, utility, and nonobviousness it ENCOURAGES other people to either significantly improve on existing items or take a new approach...keeps inventors from being lazy :D

    anyone want more boring law thoughts, just let me know!:p
     
  7. vniow thread starter macrumors G4

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    #7
    I meant that the new chip demonstrated by Intel will lock media files into one computer. The question came up because of the RIAA and the MPAA touting these copyright laws as justification to prosecute people who are suspected of downloading illegal music or software. I was just wondering if these laws are absolutely nececary for innovation and product protection or are they just being used now as a measure to control how you use those products. That's all. :)

    Edit: I think that 'neccecary evil' maybe a bit harsh, but it got your attention didn't it?:p
     
  8. vixapphire macrumors 6502

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    #8
    First, I do not work for record companies, nor do I "have to" in order to hold these opinions.

    Second, much of what you say is not inconsistent with what I said. I don't think the "system" has become corrupted. What has happened is that, through a lack of viable competition, record companies, as the monopolizers of radio airplay lists and mainstream (ie. big chain store) record retail distribution, have been able to arrogate to themselves an often-times wildly unbalanced bargaining position vis the artists they sign.

    The "justice" you seek is evident in the plummeting sales figures, mass layoffs and general disarray evident in most, if not all, of the major record companies. This is the result both of increasing pressure to sign "sure thing" hits that generate tons of money to overcome the prohibitive cost of modern record marketing, as well as increased competition from on-line alternative musical outlets like mp3.com. However, it should be noted that, even in the 2+ years that mp3.com and the like have been out there doing their thing for the little guy, there have been no breakout hits from such online services, nor have any major hit bands been signed off of the internet sites (I could be wrong on this last point, but I read something to that effect recently, quoting record industry "who's" on the topic). Which indicates that "the machine" (in the Pink Floyd sense of the term) does provide a useful and somewhat effective filtration system to keep commercial music of dubious commercial value out of the mainstream channels. Most of the non-technical, non-musician listening public would probably think this is a good thing, although more interested parties may have a different opinion...

    Good to keep in mind, though, that the major record companies are able to compete effectively because they have the finances to break through the clutter with aggressive and costly marketing campaigns. Thus, even with the proliferation of on-line music distribution schemes like mp3.com, etc., most artists will continue to make little or no money, and superstars will be rare.

    Also, it's worth noting that throughout modern pop-music history (i.e. since the days of Elvis or earlier), most artists have made their money through touring and merchandising (often closely linked), not album sales. On the other hand, record companies have traditionally had no claim to artists' touring or merchandising revenues.

    When there is truly no value added in having a record deal with a major, artists will seek and find alternatives. Until then, they're stuck either signing with the majors or going it alone/indy. Sounds like the same as it ever was to me.
     
  9. alex_ant macrumors 68020

    alex_ant

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    #9
    I just bought my school books last week. 4 textbooks: $270. 2 course packets (about 50 pages each, both containing copyrighted material): $45.

    It doesn't help that new editions of all these books, constituting little more than minor paragraph reorganizations, will be released next year for no reason at all other than to line the pockets of Prentice Hall et al, rendering the current editions virtually worthless and unable to be resold.

    So, yes, copyright is a necessary evil, but it sure does give me a good ass-reaming every semester or so. I think changing times have changed the framework that copyright laws were designed for. What we have now is a system that worked somewhat well in the 1950s, but doesn't work very well at all today. Books, movies, music, all based upon obsolete distribution models and consumer demands.
     
  10. vixapphire macrumors 6502

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    #10
    I had the same problem every semester in law school and every quarter in business school - how many $75 - $115 (!) text books can one be expected to pay for - per class! There was one instance where we were forced to buy a thin book for $78 (until that point the most expensive book anyone in the class had seen in their studies, esp. given its size), only to have the prof tell us about 3 weeks in (conveniently 1 week after the refund period at the book store) that we wouldn't be needing it so we didn't have to buy it. Too bad lynching was not an option.

    Most of the time, though, updates to the textbooks are not actually at the behest of Prentice Hall, et al. (believe me, they'll make their money anyway); in fact, it's the professors who seek to renew their income every year with a new edition. This was rampant practice at my law school, where some profs would use the addition of very few (maybe 3-5) cases to justify a new edition. While you could debate the importance of being "current with the law" etc., there wasn't much stopping them from photocopying the opinions and selling them at the copy center. Being that published opinions are public domain, there wouldn't have been any royalties to pay, though, and no profits for the prof's...

    Don't confuse individuals' greed and gaming of the system with a failure in the system. The question is, what alternative would provide a better outcome without imposing on individuals' freedom to create and make money? After all, just as the political argument goes that one can't "legislate morality" when it comes to the content of entertainment or sleeping around or whatever, you can't legislate morality to make people less greedy if that's what some are inclined to be. At least not without punishing everyone else at the same time.
     
  11. Taft macrumors 65816

    Taft

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    #11
    I agree that after the first post you made it evident that you are not necessarily pro-industry.

    But your reasoning contains a major flaw. The fact that a major hit has not broken out of the online music communities reflects both the current maturaty and listenership of online music and the record companies control on everything else.

    Record companies have very complete control over what is listened to in this country. And their control (outside of online music) gets more refined every day. Radio stations across the country are being bought out by major franchises playing only what the record industry wants to be on top. It is not necessarily an efficient filtration system simply because the commercial worth of an undiscovered artist is nearly impossible to differentiate from that of a hugely successful artist. The record industry has a long track record of making artists successful. This hardly equates to a efficient system for recognizing talent that people want to hear.

    And this doesn't even touch on the fact that the marketing is aimed at only a fraction of the buying public. While this small age group may be their most profitable sector, the music industry relatively ignores other possible areas of buyers. This keeps their machine focused and the artists they create very homogeneous.

    And the marketing you cite is, by my reckoning, one of the problems. Rather than recognizing talent and giving their audience real choice in what to listen to, they create artists based off of what the current hip image is and ram them down the American public's throat. They eliminate choice and create a climate where the wealth is shared by a select few and the rest must eek out their living by touring.

    The situation is such that most musicians end up finding other ways to support themselves and place their art firmly in a place of hobby which they practice only at local clubs; a place from which most never have a chance to break out, no matter how talented they are.

    I've seen the record industry as a problem before the era of made artists and before they declared war on music on the internet. I simply don't think they are good for music, musicians and art.

    Taft
     
  12. gbojim macrumors 6502

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    #12
    Hmmm... Interesting topic.

    I'll provide a couple of comments from the point of view of someone who has had their copyrighted IP taken without payment.

    Legally, RIAA and MPAA are perfectly justified in prosecuting people who download published music without paying for it. Having said that, I firmly believe that RIAA especially needs to drag its a$$ into the present day and start providing services that more match their customers desires. They can get away with their current methods only because of their size and market dominance. In fact, I personally believe that an antitrust investigation into their practices is warranted - but that's another story.

    Being one of the older posters here, I would like to share a few observations I have made over the years. The first is that the cost of purchasing music and/or software has not really changed much over the years. CDs today are about the same price as cassette tapes were when they were the main distribution media for music, which in turn were about the same price as vinyl records when they were the main media (I won't get into 8 tracks for those old enough to remember them). Software is not much different going from diskette to CD and now moving more and more towards downloads but still costing about the same.

    The second observation is the interesting belief of many that downloading music or software that has not been paid for is OK. The justification is almost always that the owner of the IP is just a big rich software company or record label that is ripping the public off with high prices - so they are sending a message. These same people would of course never walk into an actual store and walk out with the music or software without paying for the obvious reason of the consequences suffered if they are caught, even though they would just be sending the same message. The reason I find this interesting is that before the Internet when virtually all products had to be acquired physically, if a company messed up by overpricing their product, consumers would send their message by refusing to buy the product, which was usually fixed quite quickly by the producer of the product.

    On to my personal experience. Several years ago I had what I thought were a few good ideas for software. I developed a couple of them and approached many publishers to package and sell the apps. I was smart enough to realize that the marketing muscle of those companies would get my software the exposure needed to be commercially successful. Like music, if you sign a contract with a publisher, you normally get pretty much nothing for the first couple of applications, but if they sell well, you can do really well with subsequent products as long as you continue to develop good stuff.

    To make a long story short, the publishers were not interested so I decided to publish 2 titles as shareware for $24.95 per copy. Going by the number of downloads, I thought they were pretty successful at over 5000 copies each. Between the 2 titles, I had a total of 48 people pay. I find it kind of hard to believe that out of the 10000 downloads only 48 people decided to keep the apps on their computers and use them. I guess I must have over-priced my product.

    One thing I feel is really sad is there seems to be this growing belief that if you can get a digital product over the Internet, you should not have to pay for it. Whether its sharing music, not paying for shareware or trading passwords to paid subscription web sites, it really all amounts to the same thing.

    The other thing that I find sad is the copyright and patent laws really only benefit big companies. I knew the IP addresses of those who downloaded my software. Legally, I too could have had those people investigated and sued them for infringement if they had the software installed on their system. But $10k in legal fees that would have resulted in a return of $100 just did not make sense.

    Just my $0.02.
     
  13. alex_ant macrumors 68020

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    #13
    You're right, of course...

    Whether or not imposing a system that reduces costs for students while at the same time not collapsing textbook authors' revenue streams would be possible, I don't know. I doubt it. The money the authors earn off these books has to come from somewhere - if students were to pay less, that means the publishers have to cut their margins if the revenue stream of the authors were to be sustained. I don't know whether or not textbook prices have always been this high. If not, I wonder what has changed.

    It's tough to "reform" a system like this (well, students would say reform, whereas professors whose own books they mandate for their classes would say wreck) when it's the professors themselves who teach the courses and dictate what books students have to buy. Students could always "unionize," buying half as many textbooks and then sharing them, but with a situation like that, there would be no stopping prices from rising even higher.

    Textbooks are not necessarily covered by financial aid; perhaps their cost could be rolled into tuition? I don't want to suggest a heavy-handed solution like college or government intervention, not because I think such a solution would be bad but because it sounds extreme, and there could be a better way to fix (wreck :)) this.

    Alex
     
  14. rainman::|:| macrumors 603

    rainman::|:|

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  15. vixapphire macrumors 6502

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    #15
    Taft:

    Perhaps I should have made myself more clear: The fact that no major hit has broken out of the on-line music world is not necessarily the result of a conspiracy of the majors vs. the rest of us. Michael Robertson of MP3.com used to go on at the mouth for hours about how great his company was for artists as well as for the majors, because the popularity of posted artists would be evident from the number of hits/downloads, leading record companies to be able to use sites like mp3.com as "virtual A&R", etc. If you've seen him you know what a good salesman he is.

    However, if you think about it, it makes sense: If something indy is popular, majors usually don't waste time before they come a'knocking. Same should hold true for the on-line world of music; if something's a hit on Mp3.com, do you think majors (who, as you and I both know, are in it for the money) wouldn't seek to sign it and profit from it? That's what the article I read and commented on was referring to - majors claim to have not found as deep a pool of untapped/unexposed/no-access-to-the-machine talent on-line as they had hoped to (and don't kid yourself and assume that they weren't hoping - remember the money!)...

    I am puzzled by some of the other statements in your last post. I don't understand what you mean by the "current maturity and listenership" of on-line music being to blame - for what? If you mean that listeners are immature in that they don't have good taste, blame them and not the majors for their failure to recognize talent and ignite a commercial pop-music revolution. If you mean that they're immature in that they don't want to pay for music, you'd have to explain how that benefits the artists trying to "eek out a living", as you said. I hope you can clarify your thoughts so we know what you're talking about.

    Do you really think music is that homogeneous? Hmmm... from Britney Spears to Disturbed to Celine Dion to Sheryl Crow to the Strokes to Jaguares (and that's without even getting into hip hop, ambient, techno, and all the rest of it that's out there right now - on major labels, no less)... When you add the older artists that are still out there, it diversifies even more (ie. Robert Plant's new album, etc.). Can you think of a time when more diverse music was as widely available as it is now? If nothing out there at the moment suits your taste, that's fine and you're entitled to an opinion (and I might be inclined to agree with you!). However, your statement about music being so homogeneous reveals either that you don't get out much, you're terribly underexposed and/or misinformed, or you weren't really thinking about what you were saying. Given many of your other comments (and other postings, which I enjoy reading), I have a hard time believing that you would be so unreasonable in light of current offerings.

    Your comments about bands struggling in obscurity in some club somewhere and "never getting a chance to break out" don't jibe with reality and they sound mighty defeatist to me. With that sort of attitude, i.e. "the record companies owe it to me - they should come to ME and recognize my greatness", an artist/band will never succeed. Making a career as a musical performance artist is really tough once you have the deal, but perhaps even tougher to get the deal in the first place. The stuff about the band hanging out and playing one or two gigs before a guy in a suit shows up and tells them he's gonna make them superstars is a fantasy - If they haven't moved to one of the coasts, Chicago or Nashville, and they want a major label deal, they have nothing to complain about. Period.

    When most bands and musicians set out to make it, they soon realize how tough it is and, not being committed to that sort of gamble, they relegate their music making to a hobby and seek other, easier sources of income and sustenance. I moved to Hollywood and spent nearly 10 years trying to get a record deal, so I speak from experience. A deal wasn't in the cards for me, so I went to law school. Now I have a great studio in my living room!

    Nothing that carries the potential for such great rewards - like being a successful recording artist - comes easy, my friend. That's the simple truth of risk/reward. Why is it so surprising that show business should be any different?

    If anything, the sheer masses of people who buy into the (carefully cultivated) illusion make it a tougher competition and ultimately make talent more fungible. Record companies don't care what type of artist or what style artist someone is; their primary question is, "can we sell this and make a profit?" - as it should be, given their business plan.

    You said: "I've seen the record industry as a problem before the era of made artists and before they declared war on music on the internet. I simply don't think they are good for music, musicians and art."

    The era of made artists - are you talking about now in America, or 35 years ago (remember producer Mickey Most? Phil Spector? Motown?)? 20 years ago (Giorgio Moroder, Prince, etc.)? You'll never score a top hit covering Brian Eno's "music for airports" - it's not the pop hits genre, and not all music is for everyone. Perhaps you're nonplussed by the fact that pop music nowadays doesn't seem like much more than a drum machine and vocal arrangement without much instrumental backing, but that's a different argument than whether record companies make divergent music available, or whether they're good for "art".

    Your last statement is telling: record companies are not about "art". Artists seeking record contracts so they can become superstars (translation: sell millions of records) are not the same as artists who join an orchestra or create avante garde electronic music, etc.. The former are on the commerce side of the equation. Copyright law protects artists who seek to derive commercial benefit from their works (to bring the thread full circle); if you don't want to exploit it for commercial gain, why would you care about copyright protection?
     
  16. vniow thread starter macrumors G4

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    #16
    Thanx a bunch gbojim. It's nice to hear from somebody that this issue affects personally. :)
     
  17. jefhatfield Retired

    jefhatfield

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    #17
    copyright law is one of the fastest moving targets and while it protects people, it squelches innovation

    i have mixed thoughts on that one

    in the town where i live, a restaurant owner who used to be a lawyer tried to have the word "restaurant" to be only used for his establishment in our 4,400 person town

    ...with many dozens of eateries, he ended up losing but being a lawyer, he probably felt he could get a way with it somehow:rolleyes:
     
  18. Taft macrumors 65816

    Taft

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    #18
    I completely forgot about this forum. Heh.

    My point was that the record industry, from the 50s to today, have created a climate where the indy artists will not be able to succeed. I submit that there is no reason for only a few to succeed. The condition for this is that those who do succeed don't succees as highly. We are currently in a situation where we have the few very rich and the majority of very poor. This isn't necessary and I submit that the record industry is one of the reasons of it. Though not the only reason...It was even somewhat true in the days of Classical composers. Some of it can be attributed to music being an art, with human nature dictating that a trend occurrs and only a few subsequently succeeds. The record industry preys on this situation to (understandibly, I suppose) make money.

    By maturity, I was referring to the status of online music in the American consciousness. Its an immature form of music distribution which doesn't stack up against the record industry's forms of marketing and distribution.

    And there are significant barriers for users to get music online. The majority of users are still languishing in the world of dial-up connections. The convenience factor isn't there, especially when you consider that the music isn't significantly cheaper than store bought music and without the frills (jackets, etc) of in store music.

    And the major user base for MP3.com and the like is made up of people who are looking for new and interesting music to begin with. Sure, popular music downloads are significant, but the percentage of users downloading "off-market" music is much bigger online than on more traditional markets.

    This, combined with the significant marketing campaigns pushed onto the public, and you have significant obstacles to enter the market for most artists.

    While I admit that your list suggests an underlying variety of music, that variety really exists only on the surface. I can go to a record store a reap the benifits of years and years of incredible varieties of music. But turn on a radio to nearly every station in the country and you'll hear only a small variety of songs and bands that follow only the current trends.

    There is a world of music out there that most people (including myself) are never exposed to. This is the direct result of the industry treating an art like a commodity.

    And that is really the underlying problem, as I see it. I think music is an art. And most people aren't exposed to the art that is music, because an industry was able to commoditize it. And I can't deny that this industry has produced some great music throughout the years. It has been able to tap real artists with great talent.

    But I find the industry has increasingly a become a place where only the made and marketed bands can succeed and only a small minority of the music is marketed with the efficiency to make it a hit and consequently only a fraction of music is making the majority of the money. I think most would agree that this is becoming more the case as time goes by.

    That is what I see as the problem.

    Though I'd like to respond to each of your arguments in kind, I don't have the time now. But I will say this.

    The current situation, as it stands, doesn't have to exist. Just as in other professions there are varying degrees of success, this doesn't have to be any different in the music industry. Riight now there are a ton of talented and trained musicians not making squat. The vast majority. Now what percentage of college graduates are making nothing? Are making a "middle-class" salary? Are making a pant-load of cash?? In this scenario, there is a distribution that is quite biased towards the low side, but nontheless supports the majority of the systems "inhabitants".

    Right now, the music industry doesn't sustain much of a percentage of the trained musicians out there. Most must find other work to sustain themselves.

    In other words, the risk reward ratio you speak of is much higher in the music industry than it is in other industries. I think that this is a result of a flooding of the market because of false hopes and of corporate influence that allows only a few sustain themselves to complete excess (if you get the drift).

    Anyway, I'm getting tired. Good talking to you.

    Later

    Taft
     

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